Will Apple Computer's next version of OS X be able to run programs for Windows without Windows?

If this is indeed true, Microsoft could be very upset about their slipped shipping date for Vista.

Remember Steve Jobs' first days back at Apple in 1997 as Interim-CEO-for-Life? Trying to save the company, Steve got Bill Gates to invest $150 million in Apple and promise to keep Mac Office going for a few more years in exchange for a five-year patent cross-licensing agreement? The idea in everyone's mind, of course, was that Microsoft would grab lots of Apple technology, which they probably did, and it quite specifically ended an Apple patent infringement suit against Microsoft. But I'm told that the exchange wasn't totally one-way, that Apple, in turn, got some legal right to the Windows API.

That agreement ran for five years, from August, 1997 to August 2002. Even though it has since expired, the rights it conferred at the time still lie with the respective companies. Whatever Microsoft grabbed from Apple they can still use, they just aren't able to grab anything developed since August 2002. Same for Apple using Microsoft technology like that in Office X. But Windows XP shipped October 25, 2001: 10 months before the agreement expired.

I'm told Apple has long had this running in the Cupertino lab -- Intel Macs running OS X while mixing Apple and XP applications. This is not a guess or a rumor, this something that has been demonstrated and observed by people who have since reported to me.

Think of the implications. A souped-up OS X kernel with native Windows API support and the prospect of mixing and matching Windows and Mac applications would be, for many users, the best of both worlds. There would be no copy of Windows XP to buy, no large overhead of emulation or compatibility middleware, no chance for Microsoft to accidentally screw things up, substantially better security, and no need to even take a chance on Windows Vista.

Blagojevich ads make gun control a major focus of Ilinois gubernatorial campaign

The public would be well served if Blagojevich could actually point to any evidence that the laws that he is proposing lower crime. I don't know of any academic evidence, but if Blagojevich knows, he is keeping the information to himself and just making rhetorical statements.

"It's very difficult to define what is an assault weapon. I mean, a rolling pin could be an assault weapon if you want to look at it that way," Topinka is seen saying in the ad. "She opposes a ban because she says it could ban a rolling pin? What is she thinking?" says a voiceover. "A rolling pin is not an assault weapon. It's an excuse to do nothing," says the governor.

The governor attacked Judy Baar Topinka's opposition to a ban on more assault weapons on two fronts Thursday, with new TV ads and a news conference in downtown Chicago with gun control activists who lost family members to gun violence.

"Mrs. Topinka's position on this is a hazard to public safety," said Steve Young, gun control activist.

"The people that are trying to shout this legislation down are far more interested in buying and selling guns than they are in taking care of us. We're the ones that are left to clean up their mess," said Bill Jenkins, gun control activist.


Elderly man stops man who broke into his home

Southern Mississippi, Wednesday, April 19th

Deputies arrested a suspected burglar Monday after an 85-year-old Saucier man reported he had shot a man who broke into his home.

Harrison County sheriff's investigators said the resident knew Wayne Thomas Clark and identified him as the burglar. Deputies went to Clark's home on Mack Pete Road and found him asleep with two gunshot wounds to his back, said Sheriff's Capt. Ron Pullen.

The break-in and shooting occurred Saturday but wasn't reported until Sunday. Clark was shot with a small-caliber handgun, said Pullen.

Clark, 42, was taken to a hospital for medical treatment and was held without bond at the Harrison County jail. A judge declined to set bond on the burglary charge. At the time of his arrest, Clark was out of jail on bond for a pending stolen property charge.

Gloomy Economic Views? Are people serious? Bush Approval at New Low

"More Americans disapprove than approve of how George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Congress are doing their jobs, while a majority approves of Condoleezza Rice. President Bush’s approval hits a record low of 33 percent this week, clearly damaged by sinking support among Republicans."

Contrast this with today's other headline: "Dow Hits Six-Year High."

Am I missing something? The stock market is convinced that things are going to get better. The polls show the publicly massively believes things are getting worse. Unemployment 4.7 percent and falling. Solid economic growth. Exceptionally high productivity growth. Could it be the media coverage? Is it really just gas prices?

44 percent of Americans think that they pay the right amount of income taxes (hint: near zero)

"According to a poll by Gallup released by USA Today. 48 per cent of respondents think their taxes are too high, while 44 per cent feel they contribute the right amount." Well, given that almost half of Americans effectively pay no federal income taxes, I would say that the 44 percent number is about right.

The problems with Wikipedia

News story on defamation suit: Lott v. Levitt

(Update) From the University of Chicago student newspaper the Maroon:

Freakonomics claim sparks defamation lawsuit
By Kim Velsey
April 21, 2006 in News
John Lott, Jr., a former visiting professor at the University filed a defamation lawsuit on April 10 against economic professor Steven Levitt, co-author of the New York Time bestseller Freakonomics

Lott said the book misrepresents his work on guns and crime, according to court documents. The lawsuit does not name journalist Stephen Dubner, though he co-wrote the book with Levitt.

Freakonomics, which melds Levitt’s economic essays with Dubner’s flowing prose, remains high on the bestseller list. The book’s success, however, may have prompted the legal action, as the lawsuit references the popularity of Freakonomics as a factor contributing to Lott’s damaged reputation.

The lawsuit states that the book “damages Lott’s reputation in the eyes of the academic community in which he works, and in the minds of hundreds of thousands of academics, college students, graduate students, and members of the general public who read Freakonomics.”

The contested material is on pages 133–134 of Freakonomics, in which Levitt writes that researchers have been unable to confirm Lott’s conclusion that right-to-carry gun laws actually reduce crime.

Freakonomics states, “Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that supports his more-guns/less-crime theory. Regardless of whether or not the data was faked, Lott’s admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn’t seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don’t bring down crime.”

According to the lawsuit, Lott acknowledges that his findings have come under scrutiny in the academic community, but he maintains that he used “different data or methods to analyze the relationship between gun control laws and crime.”

The lawsuit states that scholars who have replicated Lott’s work have achieved the same results. “Every time that an economist or researcher have tried to replicate [Lott’s] results, he or she has confirmed Lott’s conclusion.”

Carl Moody, a professor of economics at the College of William and Mary, said he successfully replicated Lott’s findings and published the results in 2001. Moody said Levitt’s accusation is wrong.

The lawsuit, which also names Levitt’s publisher HarperCollins, states that the publisher acted with malice by failing to verify the statements. It seeks a court order to halt sales of Freakonomics until the statements are retracted or amended and also demands that Levitt and HarperCollins pay unspecified monetary damages.

HarperCollins would not comment on the lawsuit, but a company representative said, “HarperCollins Publishers firmly stands behind Freakonomics and its authors, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.”

The ABC show 20/20 featured Freakonomics in an hour-long special on April 14. However, there was no mention of the lawsuit, and Levitt has yet to comment on it publicly. The book’s website, Freakonomics.com, which has Levitt’s and Dubner’s weblogs, includes a brief mention of the pending litigation.

“While we were away [in London promoting the paperback edition of Freakonomics], the economist John Lott filed a lawsuit claiming that Freakonomics has libeled him,” wrote Dubner on his blog.

Lott’s website made no mention of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit has opened up discussion on the veracity of Levitt’s claims and whether a lawsuit is an appropriate forum for an academic debate.

The litigation has also shed light on what can happen when an academic book attains blockbuster status.

“Most academic debate is so trivial no one would care,” Moody said. “If the book had appeared and no one had bought it, it wouldn’t be an issue. But Levitt is accusing this guy of falsifying his results in front of millions of people.”

Here is an earlier story from the Chicago Tribune:

A scholar known for his work on guns and crime filed a defamation lawsuit Monday against University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, co-author of the best-seller "Freakonomics."

John Lott Jr. of Virginia, a former U. of C. visiting professor, alleges that Levitt defamed him in the book by claiming that other scholars had tried and failed to confirm Lott's conclusion that allowing people to carry concealed weapons reduces crime. Publishers Weekly ranked "Freakonomics" eighth this week for non-fiction hardcover books.

According to Levitt's book: "When other scholars have tried to replicate [Lott's] results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."

But according to Lott's lawsuit: "In fact, every time that an economist or other researcher has replicated Lott's research, he or she has confirmed Lott's conclusion."

By suggesting that Lott's results could not be replicated, Levitt is "alleging that Lott falsified his results," the lawsuit says.

Lott is seeking a court order to block further sales of "Freakonomics" until the offending statements are retracted and changed. He is also seeking unspecified money damages.

Lott acknowledged in the suit that some scholars have disagreed with his conclusions. But he said those researchers used "different data or methods to analyze the relationship between gun-control laws and crime" and made no attempt to "replicate" Lott's work.

The lawsuit alleges that Levitt and his publisher, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., made the statements with reckless disregard for whether they were true and that the book damaged Lott's reputation.

Neither Levitt nor HarperCollins officials could be reached Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Levitt also defamed Lott in an e-mail that Levitt sent to an economist in Texas last May. The e-mail described work that Lott published in an academic journal in 2001. It falsely stated that Lott's work had not been peer-reviewed and that Lott had blocked scholars with opposing views from appearing in the same issue of the journal, the lawsuit said.

Lott's books include "More Guns, Less Crime: Analyzing Crime and Gun Control Laws," published in 1998. Levitt won the John Bates Clark Medal for economists younger than 40 from the American Economic Association in 2003.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Last week Mr. Lott filed a defamation lawsuit against Steven D. Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the best-selling Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (William Morrow, 2005). (A copy of the complaint can be found on the blog Overlawyered.) Mr. Lott charges that in the book and in private e-mail messages, Mr. Levitt spread lies about the quality and integrity of Mr. Lott's work (The Chronicle, April 13). Much will hinge on exactly what Mr. Levitt meant by the words "replicate" and "peer refereed."

UPDATE: For the conclusion of part of the case, please see this link.



Appearing on Alan Colmes' Radio Show tonight 11:30 PM

Alan Colmes is nice enough to have me on his radio show again. This time there will be a debate with someone from Public Citizen over the price gouging oil companies. For those interested, you can listen to it live here

New Orleans to start returning firearms: It is about time

More on Mayor Bloomberg's War on Guns


Canadian Government Indicates Intention of Doing Away with Long Gun Registration

The government has indicated its intention to change registration requirements for long guns. However, it will take time to amend the law. Until then, the current law continues to apply. . . .

Every effort is being made to help firearm owners renew their licence before it expires and maintain lawful ownership of their firearms. For example, a renewal notice and a partially completed application form are mailed to licence holders at least 90 days before the expiry date of their licence. Another renewal notice is sent 30 days prior to the expiry date of a licence unless there is evidence that the licence holder has already submitted a renewal application or disposed of the firearms.

Licence renewal notices advise firearm owners of the risks they may face if they fail to renew their licence on time, including potential revocation of registration certificates and penalties under the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate. . . .

"Wheelchair Athlete Wins Right to Race Alongside Runners," Where does one draw the line

It seems to me that the different sports internalize the cost and benefits of setting up their rules. One objection is that racing a wheelchair is not the same as running a race (though the judge says that this woman's times will be (for now) counted separately. My understanding is that wheelchair athletes have an advantage. In the tight turns, what impact would a wheelchair have on the other competitors? Would it change the nature of the race? But where is the natural drawing line when the courts get involved. Recently there was the case where a golf player was allowed to use a golf cart in professional competition. What if the person was a quadriplegic? What special benefits would they be allowed?

A celebrated high school athlete who uses a wheelchair will be allowed to compete in a high school track meet against her able-bodied peers who will race on foot, under a ruling issued yesterday by a federal judge.

Tatyana McFadden, 16, a sophomore at Atholton High School in Columbia, will be allowed on the track at the same time as the other competitors but will be scored separately under a preliminary injunction granted yesterday in Baltimore by U.S. District Court Judge Andre M. Davis. . . .

Her attorney, Lauren Young of the Maryland Disability Law Center, said she believes the ruling will pave the way for other disabled athletes.

"We're thrilled. We hope that other kids with disabilities see they have access to full participation in athletic programs in schools." . . .

Bush Going After Price-Gouging By Oil Companies, Not again

Does Microsoft Benefit From Some Cases of Piracy?

The economics here are interesting, but at the end there are some similarities to the gun control debate.

Microsoft Corp. estimates it lost about $14 billion last year to software piracy — and those may prove to be the most lucrative sales never made.

Although the world's largest software maker spends millions of dollars annually to combat illegal copying and distribution of its products, critics allege — and Microsoft acknowledges — that piracy sometimes helps the company establish itself in emerging markets and fend off threats from free open-source programs.

The gist of the beneficial piracy argument is that the retail price Microsoft charges for signature products such as Windows and Office — as much as $669, depending on the version — can rival the average annual household income in some developing countries. So the vast majority of those users opt for pirated versions.

The proliferation of pirated copies nevertheless establishes Microsoft products — particularly Windows and Office — as the software standard. As economies mature and flourish and people and companies begin buying legitimate versions, they usually buy Microsoft because most others already use it. It's called the network effect. . . .

"Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though," Gates told an audience at the University of Washington. "And as long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade." . . .

This last quote reminds me of the gun control debate, where we all want to take guns away from criminals but the regulations that do so may have a bigger impact on law-abiding citizens:

Microsoft, like most other software companies, has experimented with technical tricks to prevent copying, such as discs that could be used only once and hardware "dongles" that had to be connected to the PC before a software program could run.

Legitimate users complained bitterly. Such methods caused software bugs and prevented customers from reinstalling programs when their computers malfunctioned, yet hackers quickly subverted each new attempt. . . .


Are you "doomed to a Female's Tastes"?

Art DeVany's website is always interesting. Today he has an amusing piece that I am sure will raise some hackles: "If You Can't Do This, You are Doomed to a Female's Tastes." One may have to read more than a few of his posts to get his argument, but they are interesting.

The risk of cancer from air pollution is fairly trivial

Joel Schwartz has an interesting piece over at Tech Central Station:

Based on EPA's own estimates, air pollution even in the "most toxic" areas of the country poses a miniscule cancer risk. More importantly, EPA's cancer risk estimates are grossly inflated, because they depend on the false assumption that chemicals pose the same per-unit cancer risks at real-world trace exposures as they do at massive laboratory exposures.

EPA released its 1999 National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) late last month. NATA estimates the average and range of air pollution cancer risks by county for the entire nation, based on estimates for 177 different chemicals. . . .

Here are the key numbers. If you believe the EPA, the national average risk for cancer from air pollution is 42 per million people. Including diesel soot raises that risk to 140 per million people. As it is, 330,000 per million people get cancer. So for the average American air pollution raises the risk by about .042 percent.

In Manhattan, the risk from air pollution is "454 per million if you include diesel." Presumably the risk from cancer generally is also higher. but for the sake of argument take the national average cancer rate. In that case, air pollution adds about .1376 percent to the risk of cancer. The question is obvious: what would it be like living in Manhattan without the benefits produced by the pollution? What about anyplace else in the country?